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When you ask Michael Bedell what he loves most about Northeastern Illinois University, his answer is simple.
“It’s the people,” he said. “When you walk down the halls, the students, the staff, the faculty members you pass are all so diverse. This university is remarkable. There is a learning opportunity every day due to its diversity.”
That interest in the people around him is a recurring theme for the man who was appointed dean of the College of Business and Management in December 2014.
When Bedell earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in business and psychology from the University of Kansas, he knew he would pursue a doctorate. He just didn’t know which path to take.
“Ultimately, I chose to pursue business over psychology because I thought it would make me more valuable,” said Bedell, who grew up in Belleville, Ill., outside of St. Louis.
Still, Bedell never let go of the human interest that drew him to psychology. After earning his Master of Business Administration from Kansas, Bedell obtained his Ph.D. in Human Resource Management/Organizational Behavior with a minor in Production/Operations Management from Indiana University.
Bedell went on to work for Payless ShoeSource, where his responsibilities included human resources information systems, developing selection methods and training merchandising teams.
“There’s a people component to business that’s absolutely vital,” Bedell said of his interest in human resources. “You can’t improve processes if you don’t have a handle on the people.”
After several years, Bedell chose to move back into academics, spending 15 years as a professor of Management and M.B.A. program director at California State University, Bakersfield.
In 2012, Northeastern hired Bedell as associate dean of the College of Business and Management. Bedell was promoted to acting dean the next year, then appointed to dean in 2014.
Now settled back into his home state, Bedell is excited about the future of his college.
“This is a college with a fantastic faculty and many opportunities to grow our relevance for our students and the organizations that hire our students,” Bedell said.
We asked Bedell to tell us more about his goals, his relationship with the business community and his college sports allegiances.
What is your No. 1 priority as dean of the College of Business and Management?
I want to be sure the college delivers up-to-date curriculum that will provide students with the foundation for lifelong learning and job advancement.
What else do you want the college to accomplish in the next five years?
I have several goals. I’d like to supplement the college’s Higher Learning Commission accreditation with a business-specific accreditation from an organization such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. We’re working on introducing undergraduate minors in entrepreneurship and forensic accounting. We’ve seen tremendous growth in our internship program, and we’ll work to build off of that success. And finally, I want to continue developing stronger relationships with the local business community.
Your college has an active advisory board. Why is that board important?
The advisory board is the college’s connection to industry. We have board members who represent government, utilities, consulting, financial services, health care, manufacturing, logistics and big retail, to name some of the industries. These friends of the College of Business and Management are a resource to glean competitive intelligence about what our programs should offer to students to ensure they are marketable upon graduation.
What do Chicago business leaders tell you about the Northeastern alumni they have hired?
I love talking about our alumni because business leaders tell me our graduates are well-prepared to work or intern in diverse environments. They tell me our graduates thrive as self-starters. Like you would expect at any university, Northeastern’s students are here to change and improve their lives, and they are known for taking full advantage of their opportunities.
We’ll end with a fun question: You attended Kansas and Indiana—two of the most historically successful universities in college basketball history. Where do you stand?
Three words: Rock Chalk Jayhawk!